PHOENIX — David Price's cell phone rang on the eve the Los Angeles Dodgers' first spring training workout.
Mookie Betts, his teammate with the Boston Red Sox who was traded with him to LA, had an idea he wanted to run by Price.
Price listened, gave his blessing, but still wasn’t sure how this would come across.
After all, they were the new kids on the block, and now Betts wanted to lecture the team on how to go about their spring drills?
“I told him, 'If it’s something you feel very strongly about, something you need to address, go ahead and do it'" Price said. "But make sure you choose your words wisely. Do it the right way.
“The one thing I worried about is that Mookie is brutally honest. Don’t ask Mookie a question if you don’t want brutal honesty. He can hurt your feelings. He doesn’t care if it’s something you don’t want to hear, he’s going to give you an honest opinion."
Betts was the 2018 American League MVP with the Red Sox. (Photo: Rick Scuteri, USA TODAY Sports)
“To me, that was the most impressive thing about him is speaking the way he did it," Price said. "He did it the right way. That was very cool for me to see. Given the circumstances and this the team we beat two years ago in the World Series, it’s not an easy thing to do. I thought he did it really well.’’
Betts’ message immediately resonated throughout camp. The Dodgers may have won seven consecutive division titles, but it was no time to be complacent, he told them. You can’t shut it on and off. If you want to be World Series champions, act like it now.
“I thought it was awesome, a great message,’’ Dodgers outfielder A.J. Pollock said. “It definitely impacted our camp. The intensity went up right after that. He’s treating every ground ball, every fly ball, like it’s Game 7 of the World Series, and there are ramifications if you mess it up.
“I mean, it’s easy to come to spring training and glide in here, but he said we need to treat everything like its Game 7 of the World Series, so when we get to the World Series, it’s going to feel just like it’s another day at the office.’’
Said Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner: “It was definitely surprising to a lot of people. You don’t see a guy coming into a clubhouse, not knowing too many guys, get up, and basically challenge the whole team to be accountable. That was something pretty special.
“It’s something I’ll probably never forget.’’
There’s now a sense of urgency in the Dodgers’ clubhouse, manager Dave Roberts says, with a renewed energy level. Winning the NL West for the eighth consecutive year isn’t good enough. Neither is winning the National League pennant for the third time in four years. It’s World Series championship or bust.
“Hopefully this is a season that will be remembered forever in LA,’’ Betts said.
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